Spyware and Adware are not only an ever-increasing nuisance for computer users everywhere, but also a booming industry.
According to Webroot Software, Inc., the distribution of online advertisements through spyware and adware has become a whopping $2 billion industry.
The aggressive advertising and spying tactics demonstrated by some of these programs, require an equally aggressive response from a seasoned eradicator. Sunbelt Software is such a company. A leader in Anti-Spyware, Anti-Spam, Network Security and System Management tools, they gave consistently remained on the cutting-edge of anti-spyware programming since 1994.
So you might be asking:
Why do I feel as if somebody watching me?
According to the National Cyber Security Alliance, spyware infects more than 90% of all PCs today. These unobtrusive, malicious programs are designed to silently bypass firewalls and anti-virus software without the users knowledge.
Once embedded in a computer, it can wreak havoc on the systems performance while gathering your personal information. Fortunately, unlike viruses and worms, spyware programs do not usually self-replicate.
Where Does It Come From?
Typically, spyware originates in three ways. The first and most common way is when the user installs it. In this scenario, spyware is embedded, attached, or bundled with a freeware or shareware program without the users knowledge. The user downloads the program to their computer.
Once downloaded, the spyware program goes to work collecting data for the spyware authors personal use or to sell to a third-party. Beware of many P2P file-sharing programs. They are notorious for downloads that posses spyware programs.
The user of a downloadable program should pay extra attention to the accompanying licensing agreement. Often the software publisher will warn the user that a spyware program will be installed along with the requested program.
Unfortunately, we do not always take the time to read the fine print.
Some agreements may provide special opt-out boxes that the user can click to stop the spyware from being included in the download. Be sure to review the document before signing off on the download.
Another way that spyware can access your computer is by tricking you into manipulating the security features designed to prevent any unwanted installations. The Internet Explorer Web browser was designed not to allow websites to start any unwanted downloads. That is why the user has to initiate a download by clicking on a link. These links can prove deceptive.
For example: a pop-up modeled after a standard Windows dialog box, may appear on your screen. The message may ask you if you would like to optimize your Internet access. It provides yes or no answer buttons, but, no matter which button you push, a download containing the spyware program will commence. Newer versions of Internet Explorer are now making this spyware pathway a little more difficult.
Finally, some spyware applications infect a system by attacking security holes in the Web browser or other software. When the user navigates a webpage controlled by a spyware author, the page contains code designed to attack the browser, and force the installation of the spyware program.
What Can Spyware Programs Do?
Spyware programs can accomplish a multitude of malicious tasks. Some of their deeds are simply annoying for the user; others can become downright aggressive in nature.
Monitor your keystrokes for reporting purposes.
Scan files located on your hard drive.
Snoop through applications on our desktop.
Install other spyware programs into your computer.
Read your cookies.
Steal credit card numbers, passwords, and other personal information.
Change the default settings on your home page web browser.
Mutate into a second generation of spyware thus making it more difficult to eradicate.
Cause your computer to run slower.
Deliver annoying pop up advertisements.
Add advertising links to web pages for which the author does not get paid. Instead, payment is directed to the spyware programmer that changed the original affiliates settings.
Provide the user with no uninstall option and places itself in unexpected or hidden places within your computer making it difficult to remove.
Examples of Spyware
Here are a few examples of commonly seen spyware programs:
(Please note that while researchers will often give names to spyware programs, they may not match the names the spyware-writers use.)
CoolWebSearch, a group of programs, that install through holes found in Internet Explorer. These programs direct traffic to advertisements on Web sites including coolwebsearch This spyware nuisance displays pop-up ads, rewrites search engine results, and alters the computer host file to direct the Domain Name System (DNS) to lookup preselected sites.
Internet Optimizer (a/k/a DyFuCa), likes to redirect Internet Explorer error pages to advertisements. When the user follows the broken link or enters an erroneous URL, a page of advertisements pop up.
180 Solutions reports extensive information to advertisers about the Web sites which you visit. It also alters HTTP requests for affiliate advertisements linked from a Web site. Therefore the 180 Solutions Company makes an unearned profit off of the click through advertisements theyve altered.
HuntBar (a/k/a WinTools) or Adware.Websearch, is distributed by Traffic Syndicate and is installed by ActiveX drive-by downloading at affiliate websites or by advertisements displayed by other spyware programs. Its a prime example of how spyware can install more spyware. These programs will add toolbars to Internet Explorer, track Web browsing behavior, and display advertisements.
How Can I Prevent or Combat Spyware?
There are a couple things you can do to prevent spyware from infecting your computer system. First, invest in a reliable commercial anti-spyware program. There are several currently on the market including stand alone software packages such as Lavasofts Ad-Aware or Windows Antispyware. Other options provide the anti-spyware software as part of an anti-virus package.
This type of option is offered by companies such as Sophos, Symantec, and McAfee. Anti-spyware programs can combat spyware by providing real-time protection, scanning, and removal of any found spyware software. As with most programs, update your anti virus software frequently.
As discussed, the Internet Explorer (IE) is often a contributor to the spyware problem because spyware programs like to attach themselves to its functionality.
Because of this, many users have switched to non-IE browsers. However, if you prefer to stick with Internet Explorer, be sure to update the security patches regularly, and only download programs from reputable sources. This will help reduce your chances of a spyware infiltration.
And, When All Else Fails?
Noticed I said when and not if? As spyware is growing in destruction and it covers easily more than 90% of the computers (thats you and me, 9 in 10!), the only solution you may have is backing up your data, and performing a complete reinstall of the operating system!
Laptop computer bags come in all sizes, patterns, and styles. Designers understand that people from all walks of life use laptops and have done their best to offer everyone a stylish way to transport their computer. Those looking for a versatile bag that is affordable, great looking and easy to care for will love canvas laptop bags. These durable, lightweight bags are available in a variety of colors and patterns, so even the pickiest of shoppers can find a bag to suit their taste.
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Another thing that makes a canvas laptop bag is how easy it is to carry. Most are very lightweight, so the only weight on your should is that of the computer and any books and accessories you stash in the bag. Leather bags are often bulky and heavy. Computer cases made of plastic or hard materials are difficult to carry and weight down your should. Canvas laptops bags are considered one of the healthiest and least physically damaging bags on the market. Too many people these days are lugging around bags that are damaging their posture and their neck and shoulder muscles. Canvas bags offer protection from many business and travel related injuries.
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Identity theft crimes are not new, but they have become more pervasive in the past decade. One of the most insidious forms of white-collar crime, identity theft is a federal offense under the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act. It occurs when someone deliberately assumes your personal identity to impersonate you in a legal sense. There are people out there who are malicious and want to mess your life simply because they can. Businesses and financial institutions that lose $52.6 billion each year are under tremendous pressure from consumers to tackle this problem.
Last year, identity fraud crimes topped the list of complaints reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the leading governmental agency offering identity theft help, for the fourth consecutive year. The FTC collects complaints about identity theft from consumers who have been victimized. Although the FTC does not have the authority to bring criminal cases, it can offer identity theft help by providing information to assist the victims in resolving the financial and other problems that can result from this crime. As additional identity theft help, the FTC also refers victims complaints to other appropriate government agencies and private organizations for further action. The support of these knowledgeable resources expedites recovery, while enhancing your peace-of-mind.
Accurate and up-to-date information is the most critical element to minimize risk. For this reason, Federal Trade Commission recently launched an identity theft help web site called annualcreditreport where all consumers are eligible for a free copy of their credit reports. In order to effectively respond to suspected ID fraud you should place an identity theft alert in one of the three consumer reporting agencies and that agency will notify the other remaining two. These agencies are: Equifax at 1-800-525-6285, TransUnion at 1-800-397-3742 and Experian at 1-800-680-7289. These credit reporting agencies can also be found online.
The ID Theft Clearinghouse managed by the FTC is a tool designed to coordinate law enforcement efforts in the United States. But, in the end, local law enforcement agencies like the police and district attorney end up dealing with most identity fraud cases. If you have been a victim of identity fraud, it's these local agencies that will mostly likely offer identity theft help.
It would also be a good idea to study some of the different methods of identity theft so that you can effectively combat them. Do things like shredding your important documents with any account information or identifying information.